Hilda Weil, Mrs. Homewood Terrace, dies at 96

Hilda Heilbron Weil loved the 4th of July. Not only because it marked Independence Day in her adopted homeland, but also because it was the date she met Arthur Weil, her husband of 46 years. She always made a point to celebrate the holiday with joy.

Hilda Weil died last month — on July 4. She was 96.

A native of Germany, Weil escaped the coming Holocaust and made a new life for herself, first in England and then in San Francisco. For decades she was a fixture, along with her husband, at the Jewish orphanage Homewood Terrace in San Francisco. The couple was known as “Mr. and Mrs. Homewood Terrace.”

“They were very caring and very driven,” remembered her daughter, Stephanie Weil-Small, of her parents. “The work ethic was very strong. They were very committed to their work and really loved by the kids they worked with.”

Born in 1911, Weil was raised by her mother, a widow, who struggled to provide for her three daughters. Said Weil-Small, “They were poor, but they followed their religion very closely.”

Everything changed on Nov. 9, 1938: Kristallnacht, the horrific night of mayhem throughout Nazi Germany, during which synagogues and Jewish shops were torched, looted and smashed. It was also the date of Weil’s 27th birthday, and forever after, her birthday was a gloomy affair.

The three sisters fled the country, with Weil moving to Bath, England, where she earned a degree in social science. She immigrated to America in 1947 and began working at the Edgewood Children’s Home.

Two years later, on Independence Day, she met Arthur Weil, a fellow German Jewish refugee who had fled to Shanghai before moving to San Francisco.

Thus began the couple’s long association with Homewood Terrace. She served as a caseworker, while he was a recreation director.

“She was loving, but a limit-setter,” recalled Weil-Small. “She was a high-control person, but it worked well for her since she worked with tough, disturbed kids from fractured families. I remember going on rounds with them, checking all the houses in early evening and making sure everyone was there.”

After Homewood Terrace closed, Weil worked another 30 years as a social worker at Jewish Family and Children’s Services.

A fund was later established there in her name and her husband’s. The Weils were members of Congregation Emanu-El for more than 50 years. Arthur Weil died 20 years ago.

For most of her last years, Weil remained active and independent, living at the Carlisle assisted-living senior residence in San Francisco. A broken hip two years ago caused her to relocate to Seattle to be closer to her daughter and grandson.

Poor health finally got the better of her, and as she lay in a coma in early July, her daughter whispered to her, “Tomorrow is the 4th of July, the day you met Arthur. You can let go.”

Added Weil-Small, “That was always the best day of the year.”

Hilda Weil is survived by her daughter, Stephanie Weil-Small, son-in-law Dr. Robert Small, and grandson, Daniel Arthur Small. Donations can be made to the Arthur and Hilda Weil Fund, c/o Jewish Family and Children’s Services, 1450 Post Street, S.F. CA, 94115.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.